Investment zones could have great benefits but Jade Uko, senior account director, DevComms South East, says communicating them is crucial.
Investment Zones were first announced under Liz Truss’s notorious mini-Budget in October 2022. With lettuce firmly off the shelves in March 2023, the current Chancellor has revived the idea announcing funding for 12 investment zones in the UK.
The Government plans to use investment zones to boost economic growth by offering a range of incentives to attract business and investment. This potentially includes tax breaks, planning support and infrastructure improvements.
What does this mean from a planning perspective?
- Local authorities in investment zones may need to review their Local Plans and policies to ensure that they align with the Government’s objectives. This may include identifying suitable sites for development and considering the impact locally.
- Working closely with businesses and investors will be crucial to the success of investment zones. This may involve councils having to provide a greater role in providing advice and negotiating planning obligations. There will need to be a single point of contact for investors to support planning applications.
- There is likely to be increased emphasis on the development of infrastructure to boost and enable growth.
The Government say they are not implementing a ‘top down’ approach to planning decisions which seems to be a difference from previous announcements. They do expect investment zone areas to have ‘credible and ambitious plans to accelerate development’ and that they will be given additional support to achieve that.
Critics claim that the funding announcement falls short of what is needed to develop these zones and some groups fear that the initiatives will fail to acknowledge environmental and local concerns. Detailed plans on how investment zones will work are yet to be announced and the development is still at an early stage.
What is clear is that in order for investment zones to be successful, stakeholder and community engagement will need to be at the forefront of the strategy.
Without local community buy-in these areas do in fact risk becoming a ‘top down’ experiment.
Our vast experience of community engagement has taught us that the success in any scheme is related to how well you communicate and listen to the local community.
We hope to see the value of good community engagement recognised and encouraged in the detail of the proposals coming forward.
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